The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) released its assessment of industrial robotics sales for 2019. They believe at the end of the year 2.7 million industrial robots were operating in factories around the world an increase of 12% vs. 2018’s installed base. However 373k the number of robots shipped in 2019 marked a decline of 12% yoy vs 2018’s record of 422,000 units, this was still the third highest sales volume recorded after 2018 and 2017 though. The decline in sales yoy has been driven by difficulties in the two biggest end markets for robotics Automotive where global capacity additions have slowed as both electric and autonomous vehicle technologies have disrupted the industry and electronics which had a digestion year. Asia remains the key driver for robot demand globally with around 2/3 of global new installs there in 2019 lead by China and Japan. In China 71% of installations were from foreign suppliers, around 30% of these sales ended up in the automotive industry vs. only 12% automotive sales exposure among Chinese domestic manufacturers meaning that the foreign brands were more harshly impacted by the weaker automotive markets there. Sales in China declined 9% yoy in 2019 due to a combination of factors but the strongest being weak auto industry spending and impacts from US/China trade tensions. European sales were down 5% yoy in 2019 lead by a 23% decline in Germany Europe’s largest market by far. Like China this was probably in part driven by weakness in automotive capital expenditure spending in 2019 as well as an impact from the trade tensions between the US and China. Sales of new robots in the US were also down materially in 2019 at -17% yoy but still at 33k units the second strongest demand year in their history. The outlook for 2020 new installations is likely to be worse than 2019 with Covid-19 having already shut down manufacturing for weeks on end in countries across the globe and many end-market customers being very careful about allocation of resources in these uncertain times, however we expect demand to rise again next year in part driven by an increased focus on automating manufacturing and supply chains to prevent future pandemics from causing so much disruption.
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